Unusual Circumstances Appeal

Most undergraduate students are considered dependent students, even if you don't live with your parents. This means that your parents’ tax information was used to fill out the FAFSA. If you're not sure, the Federal Student Aid website provides a list of criteria to determine if you are a dependent or independent student for financial aid purposes. We encourage you to review the FAQs about reporting parent information too.

In some situations, you can ask to be considered independent of your parents for financial aid purposes.

Examples of these extenuating circumstances include (but not limited to): 

  • Your parents are incarcerated.
  • You have left home due to an abusive family environment.
  • You do not know where your parents are and are unable to contact them (and you have not been adopted).
  • You are older than 21 but not yet 24, are unaccompanied, and are either homeless or self-supporting and at risk of being homeless.
  • Human trafficking, as described in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (22 U.S.C. 7101 et seq.).
  • Legally granted refugee or asylum status.

If any of the criteria above apply to you, we encourage you to reach out to us. You should only file an appeal after one of these situations has occurred. Appeals based on future projections or anticipated events will be denied. You must have a completed FAFSA to file this appeal.

Unusual circumstances do not include:

  • Parents refusal to contribute to the student's education.
  • Parents will not provide information for the FAFSA or verification.
  • Parents do not claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes.
  • Student demonstrates total self-sufficiency.

How to file a Unusual Circumstances Appeal

  1. Set up a time to talk to us. You can call us at (415) 422-3387, email us at Financialaid@usfca.edu, visit us in-person in LMM- 203, or join our virtual Zoom drop-in advising. We'll ask you some questions to better understand your situation.
  2. If you are eligible for a Unusual Circumstance Appeal, you’ll receive an email notification to log in to an online platform where you will be asked to upload required documents (see below). The sooner we receive your documents, the sooner we can move forward in the process. 
  3. If your request is approved, you will be notified via email and an updated financial aid offer should appear in myUSF within two weeks. You may see additional or increased federal grants (Pell/SEOG), state grants (Cal Grant), and/or need-based loans (subsidized loans). Typically, an increase in institutional aid is not considered.
  4. If your request is denied, you will be notified via email with a specific reason as to why your request was denied. Please read the email carefully. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us.

Supporting Documentations

  • Legal documentation verifying the reasons for your appeal. This may include, but is not limited to police or court reports, copy of a death certificate, or documentation from a social agency. 
  • Letter from a third-party professional that supports the reasons for your appeal. Letters should be on official letterhead, and should explain the situation in detail. Examples of third party individuals include: social workers, mental or medical health professionals, clergy members, guidance counselors, teacher/instructor, high school administrator or college official, or law enforcement officers. 
  • Under certain circumstances, we may accept letters from an objective third-party that explains and confirms the reasons for your appeal. The letter should be from someone who has first-hand knowledge of your situation and is able to verify the circumstances you described in your personal statement. An objective third-party could be a relative, the parent of a friend, neighbor, employer, etc.
  • Utility bills, health insurance, or other documents that demonstrate a separation from parents or legal guardians.